Thursday, June 14, 2018

Rich People Can Be Sad

When I opened Facebook last Friday morning, the status of one of my friends read "Don't turn on CNN".

In the comment below, it said "Dear God, not Anthony Bourdain."

Dear God, indeed.  I am not usually one to get upset about the death of a celebrity, as I'm practical and recognize that there are vastly more important things to worry about right now, but I fucking loved Anthony Bourdain.  He was sexy and unapologetic and smart and absolutely obsessed with food.  He was the stereotypical entitled white male, and I should have hated him based on my usual patterns, but I didn't.  Because although he was rich and had every door in the world open to him, he was also kind.  He treated the guests on his show, and the food they served him, with respect.  It's possible that he was a total jerk in real life, but his public persona was good.

He also responded to me on Twitter.

I recently called him out for his lack of female representation on The Layover, and he responded with a "Yep".  It was the absolute minimum he could have done to acknowledge me, but I was still gleeful about receiving a response from The.  Anthony.  Bourdain.

And now he's gone.

Within minutes of the news that he had killed himself, people were starting to speculate about the whys of it.  And of course, there were people who said things like "What did he have to be depressed about?  He had so much money."


Don't get me wrong.  We all know that there are some very good things about money, starting from its ability to provide us with necessities (food, clothing, shelter) and extending to its ability to fly us to France for fancy pastries.  Water is also wet.  But while some amount of money is necessary for happiness, no amount of it is enough to buy happiness.

It doesn't fix loneliness.
Or broken brain chemistry.
Or a traumatic past.

It doesn't create love.
Or community.
Or a life purpose.

I have had no money and I have had lots of money in my life, and while I definitely prefer the latter, I also know that money doesn't protect me from being sad.

And we need to stop thinking that it does.

Because even rich people like Anthony Bourdain deserve to be cared for when they're depressed.  They deserve forgiveness and understanding for not being able to stay in this often hostile world.

I forgive and understand you Tony.  And I will miss the heck out of you.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

What It's Like to be Queer

Pride Week is coming up in my city, and as an early event, last week my medical school hosted a group of transgender individuals talking about their experiences and answering questions.  Although it was a Friday afternoon and I was tired from being on call, I made an effort to attend, partly because I was interested in the session, and partly because as a queer person I feel a sense of responsibility to show up to all LGBTQ* events.  The session was hosted in the same room as my first-year medical school class, and as I pulled open the familiar door, I felt something completely unexpected.


Now, before I continue, I want to give some back story.  I came out as a lesbian when I was 16, and as bisexual less than a year later, so I have been out to the people closest to me for decades.  I brought my same-sex partner to a work dinner over four years ago, and I have been answering people's awkward questions about swingers resorts and polyamory at work ever since.  But when I was in medical school, having just returned to my home city after seven years away, none of my classmates knew.  Because I was still dating men at the time, everyone operated on the assumption that I was straight, and I did nothing to challenge them.

So my first thought, walking into my old classroom, was a reflexive "I hope no one sees me here and figures out that I'm queer."  Which...hello.  A little late now.  I work at a small university, and pretty much everyone who knows me also knows that I'm queer.

But there it was, nonetheless.  An almost instinctive desire to hide.  To pretend to be just like everyone else.

And it came up again last night.  The new girl and I went to a theatre show together, which was hosted by the company with which I volunteer, and my first thought was that I needed to hide the relationship from my fellow volunteers.

My fellow volunteers in a left-wing theatre company.  

There aren't a lot of spaces in this world that are more queer-positive than a theatre show, and yet that automatic response was still there.  Even though I live in a country where same-sex marriage has been legal for 13 years and where the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects LGBTQ* individuals, I still feel anxious about being out everywhere I go.

If my patient finds out that I'm queer, will they want a different doctor?
If my doctor finds out that I'm queer, will she want a different patient?
Can I hold my partner's hand in this alleyway at night?  In the elevator of my apartment building?  In the grocery store?

I am so lucky and grateful to live in a time and place where my rights as a queer woman are protected.

And yet.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Anticipatory Grief

Years ago, a friend of mine who was eight months pregnant commented that she hadn't set up her nursery yet, as she knew that it would upset her if she were so unlucky as to have a late complication and lose her baby.  Another friend, who was already a mother, gave her a piece of advice that has stuck with me to this day:

"If you lose your baby, you're going to be devastated whether you've set up the nursery or not.  All that you're accomplishing by trying to protect yourself from grief is preventing yourself from feeling joy right now."

I have been thinking about this a lot over the past ten days.  Ten days ago I met "the new girl", and in addition to blogging about her here, I've also been tweeting about her incessantly.  About how much we have in common.  About how easy it is to talk to her.  About how I kind of wanted to marry her after she told me that she has a plan to retire at 55.

I recognize that this is ridiculous.  We have known each other for only 10 days, and while there are many things that work, 10 days is way too soon to be making any sort of decisions about anything.  It is not impossible to think that we could end up in a wonderful forty-year-long relationship, but we could also be sick of each other by the end of the month.  We just don't know.

And honestly, I'm scared.  I'm scared that I am going to fuck something up, or she is going to fuck something up, or that things are just not going to align in the right way, and this lovely feeling I'm feeling is going to end.  So part of me thinks that I should stop tweeting and daydreaming and feeling all of the happy feels.

But then I remember the advice.  And I just go with it.

Thursday, May 17, 2018


Hey wow...yes...I have a blog.

It turns out that when you take three weeks off of work, no matter how good a job you do of getting caught up before you leave, there will be a shit tonne* of work waiting for you on your return.  And if you're sick for three weeks before you leave and therefore don't get done everything you want?

You're doomed.

It has taken me a solid three weeks of hard work to get almost fully caught up, and I am now on call for two weeks, so I am falling further behind every day.  So there (obviously) hasn't been a lot of blogging happening.

But there has been some dating.  (Also a reason for the not blogging.)

Dating is one of my least favourite activities in the world.  I have a few hangups about my appearance (thanks bad genetics and critical mother!), so putting photos out there for people to judge me by is not fun.  (I'm sure I'm the only person who feels this way.)  I also really don't like to meet new people.  I do like when new people become old friends, but I do not like the anxiety of meeting someone new or the tedium of making small talk with someone I don't like.

So yeah.  Introverts.  Don't like dating.  Who knew?

But then I met someone.  Maybe not SOMEONE, someone.  But someone interesting.  Someone whom I have actually been seeing around my city for years, because my city is small and we both love the theatre.  Someone who likes 90% of the same things as me.  Someone whom I have now spent over 8 hours with and had virtually no moments of awkward silence with. 


And it has been pretty wonderful, in a lot of ways.  Except for my anxious brain.  My anxious brain does not like to just relax and let things happen.  It wants answers to everything.  Now. 

Are we compatible enough?  Will my mother like her**?  Will I break her heart?  Will she break mine?  Will I stay with her too long and regret time lost, like I always do? 

It is, frankly, ridiculous.  I haven't known her long enough to be wondering any of these things.  All of these questions, and the many others that distract me constantly, can be answered with time.  There is no rush.

I can just date.

So I am trying to go against my nature and do just that.  Trying to slow down and let things unfold how they will. 

We shall see.

*The metric equivalent of a shit ton.

**Probably not.  But that's just my mother.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Blink and It's Over

When anticipating a vacation, I am always completely delusional about what it will be like.  I imagine myself with no time constraints, able to endlessly blog and sleep and explore, without ever having to choose between different activities.  The reality, of course, is not that.  There is always more to do than there is time, and vacations eventually end, thus tonight is my last night in Paris and I haven't blogged in two weeks.  I assure anyone who hasn't been following me on Twitter that yes, I have been having a fabulous time, and yes, I have been eating ridiculous numbers of pastries.

This has been a really, really good trip.  There have been moments when I have felt lonely, and more than once I have seriously considered going to a cat cafe for some feline attention, but overall it has been good to travel alone.  The introvert in me had been craving silence, long stretches of time without having to answer to anyone, and the past three weeks have been exactly that.  My mind has been able to wander wherever it wants, and I have had time to think and think and think about all the big questions in my life.  It has been good.

And of course, I have seen things!  So, so many things.  On my last day in Caen, I took a tour of the Canadian D-Day beaches, and then I went to Dijon, where I slept a lot and drank wine on the couch and did a bit of wandering through the historic city.  In Paris I have been all over the place:  the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Shakespeare and Co, the Musée d'Orsay, the Natural History Museum, Sacre-Coeur, Montmartre, the Curie Museum, and the Army Museum.  It has been delightfully nerdy, in both a scientific and a historical way, which suits me perfectly.

I haven't done as well with my French as I had hopped.  I struggle a lot with verbal comprehension, and the accents are different from the ones that I am used to, so I have said "Désolé, je ne comprends pas" and "Pouvez-vous repétér ça, s'il vous plaît?" more times than I can count.  (Actually, I have mostly just contorted my face painfully and made awkward sounds, which is the introvert's way of saying "I don't understand".)  But I have learned new words, thanks to reading every street sign and countless museum displays, and my ability to understand written French is getting better quickly.

(Yesterday's word of the day was "ruche", as in hive, which I learned from this beehive at the Natural History Museum.  Yup...I am a nerd.*)

There have been moments on the trip when I have considered giving up on learning French, as it is frustrating to see how far I still have to go before I will be functionally fluent.  But then, I wander into a bookstore and walk out with The Handmaid's Tail in French (La servante écarlate), and I think that the learning will continue.  I dream of living in Europe for at least a year in retirement, and if I continue to plug at it for the next 7+ years, I can hopefully be functional by then.

(Also, there is a cute lesbian in my conversational French group.  Not that that's a reason to learn a language...)

So...that is my trip in a very small nutshell.  I will try to post some more pictures, although I dread the volume of work that awaits my return to work, so I make no promises.  There is part of me that is resentful of the fact that I need to go back to work, but mostly right now I am incredibly grateful to have been able to do this.  I know how fortunate I am that this is my life.

*When I was a kid, my Dad used to play a silly game in which he would ask what letter a word started with, and when I would reply "B" he would scream "A bee!  Bzzzzzzzzz!" and pretend that his hand was a buzzing bee.  Since studying French, whenever I try to remember the word for bee, I will scream "Une abeille!  Bzzzzzzzzzz!".  Thankfully I have learned to scream this in my head when I am in public.

Friday, April 6, 2018

And Then I Went to Caen

This trip continues to whirl by.  As mentioned in my previous post, I had terrible internet access in Caen, so I basically gave up on posting to my blog or even Facebook for the entire time I was there (I did manage to post a few photos of the tasty food to Twitter).  I am now in Dijon, and I have internet access again, so I will make more of an effort to post.  But there is so much to do, it's hard to tear myself away from the doing!

Caen was not an intentional destination for me.  While searching through places to visit in France, I fell in love with the tiny seaside town of Honfleur, and decided to use Caen as a home base for visiting Honfleur, which is accessible only by a very long bus ride*.  When I arrived in Caen, I actually wondered if there would be enough for me to do there.  And yes, there was more than enough.  I needn't have worried.

Caen's main draw is as a site for World War II history.  Almost 80% of the city was destroyed by Allied bombings around the time of D-Day, so it contains a lot of buildings that were rebuilt after the war, as well as many that still show major signs of damage.

(A photo of the church down the street from my apartment (Église Saint-Jean) following the bombing.)

(Although most of the church has been rebuilt, this tower still shows evidence of the damage.)

(Another church in Caen that was so badly damaged that they didn't even try to rebuild it.)

It was surreal to see partial remains of churches and to walk through the Abbaye-aux-Hommes (Men's Abbey), which is the burial site of William the Conquerer ("Guillaume le Conquérant") and also a place where the citizens of Caen took refuge during weeks of bombings.

For me, the best but also most difficult part of the visit was going to the Memorial de Caen, which is an amazing WWII museum.  It covers the history of Europe post-WWI, the rise of fascism**, the German military campaigns, the concentration camps, and the eventual liberation of Europe starting with D-Day and the Battle of Normandy.  It was amongst the best museums I've ever visited.

Reading about the concentration camps, seeing the photos and records of what people did to other people, breaks me a bit every time.

But when I see what physicians did?  That's when I ugly cry in the corner.

*In the end, I didn't even go to Honfleur, as I decided that I didn't want to spend 5 hours on a bus when I could instead use the time to see more of Caen.  Je ne regrette rien.

**The parallels between the rise of fascism and what's happening in the US right now are terrifying.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Lyon to Caen - Jet Lag Ends Eventually, Right?

I thought that the jet lag was bad for the first two days, but really it wasn't.  I had lots of adrenaline and a desire to see everything in Lyon, which kept me excited in spite of the overwhelming urge to fall asleep in the middle of the afternoon.

My jet lag really kicked in during my five-hour train ride from Lyon to Caen today.  Oh my goodness, it felt like I was post-overnight call for the first time in five years.  No amount of reading or internetting or listening to good music could keep me from dozing off and leaning precariously into the middle aisle of the train.  (Over and over.  I think my neck is going to be sore from snapping backwards every time I dozed off.)

I almost didn't make it to Caen.  I left myself lots of time to get to my first train*, but I hadn't realized that the receipt I had printed out was not an actual ticket, so at the last minute I was scrambling to download an e-ticket on my phone.  And then I had an hour to switch trains in Paris, which would have been fine except that I had to take the metro between stations, which got me to the second station less than 30 minutes before my train.  And then I couldn't download my next e-ticket.  So I stood in a very long ticket line, watching the time until my train departed disappear and panicking, until I got so nervous that I asked the person in front of me if I could cut ahead**.  Unfortunately, seemingly everyone was trying to get on the same train, so no, I couldn't cut ahead of anyone. Thankfully, about 5 minutes before the train, my phone suddenly cooperated, and I was able to access my ticket.  If it hadn't, I might still be in Paris trying to get a later train out.

But anyway....after a lot of head bobbing and drooling on my fleece, I arrived in Caen, where pretty much everything is closed for Easter Monday.  I really didn't want to eat more cheese and bread for supper***, so I was quite happy to discover an open Vietnamese restaurant around the corner from my B and B.  Not what I was expecting to have for supper on my third day in France, but it was surprisingly tasty.

So that was my day....I didn't blog about yesterday, as I got home from supper very late, but here are some photos to hopefully make up for it.

The meeting place for my morning walking tour (walking tour #2 and pain au chocolat #2):

One of the two open-air markets we saw on the tour:

A view of the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière, as well as part of the city: 

The Hotel de Ville (City Hall) on the walking tour, complete with participants in the race that was run roughly along the route of our walking tour.

After the walking tour, I visited some Roman ruins.  But no photos of them for you, as my B and B has no internet (how is this a thing?), and my phone internet can only handle uploading so many photos.

After the ruins, I took a long walk up the hill to the Basilica.  A view from the outside:

(The views from the inside are also being held captive on my computer.)

I ended my day at the Museum of the Resistance and Deportation.  A photo of WWII refugees from Paris, who had been relocated to Lyon:

Hmmm....maybe I'm actually tired because I'm trying to do so much every day?  I'm sure I'll do better tomorrow.  During my one day in Caen.  Cause there isn't much to do here...

*I also had lots of time to eat anglais abricots, a pastry that I might like better than pain au chocolat...I'll let you know after a few more comparisons.

 **This is unusual for me, as I don't generally like talking to strangers, and I find it extra hard to do in French.

***Yes, I have already reached the point of my trip at which I'm whining about having to eat the same thing two meals in a row.  I blame the jet lag.